George and I are skyping on a ferociously hot day towards the end of Summer. He is sitting in his bedroom in front of a rail of paint samples in various shades of blue. He looks cool although he tells me he’s extremely busy, between projects and not a natural multi-tasker. Lets find out how this man manages to execute everything he has an artistic eye for:
Q: 2012 is a big year for you. You start your final year studying as a jewellery designer and have your graduation show next semester, you had your first solo Exhibition and started being represented as a visual artist on sssquare. Given that you study jewellery art and work in 3D, does it feel strange to be represented as a visual artist?
George Chamoun: I've always been the kind of person that does a lot of different things when it comes to art. It was three years ago that I came to the point in my life where I decided that my artistry had to take some sort of direction. But I think I've come to the conclusion that I can't limit myself in that way. I just keep working on what makes me happy and keeps me going. So being represented as a visual artist on sssquare is great, and when I can be represented as a jewellery artist somewhere else it will also be a good thing.
Q: How did you settle on studying Jewellery Art at the Konstfack University of the Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm?
GC: Before applying for the Konstfack, I attended two different preparatory schools. In those two years I learned more about what I wanted to do and more importantly, what I didn't want to do.
” Yes, I used to work as a photographer but felt it lacked some of the creativity... you know, just pushing a button. ”
Q: Yes, for example you worked as a photographer (before studying arts) and your work was published in a Stockholm Fashion Week Magazine.
GC: Yes, I used to work as a photographer but felt it lacked some of the creativity... you know, just pushing a button. I wanted to work more actively with my hands and now I am.
He reminisces about his interview for the Konstfack University.
Professors do not like mixing fashion with art. For them there exists a big distinction. “Oh” the tutors sighed looking at my portfolio (which I guess must have looked like a fashion spread). “Are you going to work with fashion?” he continues “I still choose not to make that distinction.”
Q: A bit like Lady GAGA?
GC: No. I consider Lady Gaga to be fashion. Kind of a fashion victim, haha.
Anyway, I’m a bit of a control freak about how I am portrayed as an artist and letting go of my works (which are like my babies) is not so easy.
Q: What do you view as the role of the artist today?
GC: For me, my role is about giving people a little peek inside my brain. I've never been a political artist, but the last years at Konstfack have made me open my eyes to a lot of things like class issues for instance.
Since you work with yourself, your own emotions and life experiences, it's easy to start dealing with stuff like your childhood in your artwork. And that can be political.
My parents are Lebanese, but I grew up in Sweden having left the country in 1988 (age 3) given the Civil War. Therefore I feel more Swedish in a sense but still have a huge family in Lebanon... Which feels strange.
Q: What do you think of sssquares innovative ‘download for donation’ scheme? Are you an ‘artist for everyone?’
GC: I think it's great. I've always thought that art should be more accessible. I don't think only people who have a lot of money should be able to buy good art. But ironically there's the other side to the coin, which is that to survive as an artist you need money. So you need to learn how to balance it out. And I think this function is good, because people can give as much as they can or want to.
Q: The series you created for sssquare is titled ‘ICONATOMY.’ At first glance colour appears to have been spilled onto this series of portrait images and it takes a while to realise that two icons have been merged together (one from a black and white film, the other a 21st Century screen celebrity.) In this way the evolution of the icon is illustrated as the eye jumps decades as the images fit so seamlessly.
GC: Lots of people think I have just made part of the picture black and white. I did so much more! Having experimented making the transitions faded I decided to keep the lines sharp. Sometimes, I look at the way they fit together and think ‘How did I do that?! The whole process was really fun.”
Q: This seamless merging suggests that our concept of screen beauty has not really changed. What are your thoughts, has fashion radically altered our concept of beauty over the last decades?
GC: I think the concept of beauty has definitely been altered. We still have the same beauty ideals as before though, but today there is a wider range of what's considered to be beautiful. And it gets wider and wider each day.
Q: Is your practice truly inter-disciplinary, where your visual works fuel your jewellery making and vice-versa, or do you like to liberate yourself by plunging into a new medium?
GC: I think I like to separate the two. When I am tired of working in 3D, I just take out my big collage book and start working with that. Although I suppose whether I am gathering rusted items discarded in the forest as jewellery material or cutting out bits for my collages, the process of finding and assembling connects my work.
Q: Are your works for sssquare digitally collaged or did you assemble the images?
GC: The work that is presented on sssquare is the only collage work that I made digitally, simply because I knew my concept before I started working. Usually I start by cutting small pieces and then assembling them. This didn't work with the "Iconatomy" project, so I had to find my images online, which was the hardest part of the process.
” Today there is a wider range of what's considered to be beautiful. And it gets wider and wider each day ”
Q: Did you have the icon partnerships in mind before you started work? Were some screen couples easier to merge together than others?
GC: I started out by trying to think which movie stars had similar features. The easiest couple was Marilyn Monroe and Scarlett Johansson. I just put the images together and everything fell into place.
With ‘Angelina Taylor’ (Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie) I had to change many things. Her eyes were looking in two different directions. When I first put the two images together she was really cross-eyed!
People were most horrified by my mixing of James Dean and Robert Pattinson. I provoked lots of comments like “they are on totally different levels,” “These two cannot be compared” and I had to explain “It was not my intention to compare these two in terms of their skills when acting!”
Q: I find myself laughing at the vigour underpinning all of his works: how he rolls through all artistic processes, making and creating and moving onto the next project. And what will that be?
GC: “I’m directing a music video for my Swedish Rapper friend Silvana Solo. We're shooting the video in a gravel pit so it looks like she's in the desert… Since there are no real deserts in Sweden!”
With this weather and George’s talent for illusion, I can’t help but feel it will be a great success.
George, thank you very much for your time and best of luck in the future.
George is an artist and art student living and working in Stockholm, Sweden. He is currently in his third and last year at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts & Design for a BFA in Jewellery Art.
Having always been a creative person, George quit his day job in 2008 and decided to do what he loves most. Studying at two preparatory schools, he came to the conclusion that his interest lies in working with the body in different ways. At the end of the second year of preparatory school, he felt curious about and intrigued with the art jewellery world. While working mostly in 3D nowadays, his love for paper collages and print matter will always be present in his artistry.
Worth a visit:
- George's Blog